Owning it: Giving a new build flat character

Owning it: Giving a new build flat character

First-time buyers struggles are old news. Between the drastic inflation of property prices and being told you’ll only afford a deposit if you stop eating shop-bought sandwiches, getting a foot on the ladder continues to be out of reach for many. At least, that’s how it seems. Over the past decade, there’s been a new wave of homeowners thanks to shared ownership schemes, and Anna Wilkins is one of them. The freelance picture editor and prop stylist injected a cookie-cutter apartment with dramatic colour and eclectic décor to create a space you’d never guess was new build. Read on to find out how she did it.

To buy, or not to buy

Whether or not to buy is a decision many don’t have the privilege of making. But Anna took advantage of an initiative that helps people onto the property ladder: “I own 25% and pay rent for the rest to a housing association.” However, unlike traditional tenants, shared owners can transform what is usually a new build flat into something individual and unique. “I have the same rights as an owner so can do whatever I want to my flat decoration wise. The first thing I did after years of renting was paint different colours in every room and put some wallpaper up in the hallway.”

In the summer time

“I spent the summer I bought my flat working in Abigail Ahern’s shop and then re-painted my flat in dark colours. I have big windows so it can take it. Everything looks great against dark colours. It’s the same with photography, I always gravitate towards dark and shadows.”

Into darkness

“I like that people are quite shocked by a dark hallway when they first walk in. I needed everything to go together but with a contrast between each room so I kept my bedroom a lighter colour.”


When it comes to design, “new build” can be a dirty phrase. But it’s not always the case. Anna’s home had depth even before she painted the walls. “The original building was Alfred Hitchcock’s film studio – Gainsborough Pictures - from the 1920s. It was made into flats in 2002 and still has some of the facade. There’s a giant bust of Alfred Hitchcock in the courtyard.”

Picture perfect

“I’m very lucky to shoot in so many location houses, I pick little things up along the way.” Being a photo editor, Anna doesn’t just rely on websites to get inspo - though, they do help: “It’s a lot easier to get inspired with websites like Pinterest and I buy lots of magazines every month. But I’m put off buying something if I’ve seen it a lot.”

Finding inspiration

“I started to get more interested in interior design in my late 20s but really got going when I worked at ELLE Decoration and other interiors magazines. I spent a year storing up ideas as I was getting all the images in and going to press shows. When I bought my flat I had a clear idea about what I wanted to do.”

Made to last

“I have the Vetro table light. I saw it in Chris Clarke’s flat and really liked it. I haven’t seen anything like it and the diffused light is great, I hate hard lighting. I have quite a lot of home accessories, too. When I freelanced at MADE.COM, I was really surprised at how good they were. I thought MADE just did large furniture items. I like that a lot of MADE things are made in Portugal. Terra.Cotto is lovely. I also have bed linens, Newberg cutlery (it’s brushed/matt so looks great in shoots) and marble platters. Food looks great against marble and is used in food photography a lot.”

Keep it clean

“I’m naturally a hoarder and get sentimental but I have limited storage - which is frustrating - but it’s also good as it forces me to get rid of stuff.” Having your own space doesn’t mean all compromises disappear. But Anna’s learnt how to make the most of her small space and still make it her own: “Only surround yourself with things you really love.”

Article written by: Carly-Ann Clements
Photography by: Ola Smit

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